Max Squat and Vertical Jump

Following on from the post on Increasing Vertical Jump, this post supports the fact that strong legs are required for a good vertical jump.

Vertical jump and sprint times correlate well with max squat strength. This means that if you have a strong max squat you are likely to have a good vertical jump and short distance sprint speed (both of which are important for volleyball).

Leg strength is a big factor in the first few steps of a sprint. As the distance increases there becomes less reliance on leg strength and other factors such as rate of force development, efficiency and technique become more important. The guy with a 200kg squat does not necessarily win a 100m sprint, but he will certainly be one of the quickest over the first 5-10 metres. The first few steps are the key in volleyball, and maximal squat strength plays a big part in this.

Likewise with a vertical jump, there is a strong correlation between max squat strength and vertical jump performance. Interestingly the correlation between max leg press strength and vertical jump is not as strong. This is because the squat is a more similar movement pattern to jumping than a leg press and hence there is more carryover. The correlation between leg extension strength and vertical jump is even weaker.

The squat plays a large role in improving movement around the court and vertical jump. There are other factors which affect performance in these tasks (see post on Increasing Vertical Jump for some factors affecting vertical jump).The key is to find the one that is the weakest link, and work to improve on that, in order to get the fastest gains.

I am willing to bet that in a large proportion of volleyball athletes the limiting factor is brute strength. Laying a good base of strength is crucial, now go and do some squats.

Do the opposite: A conditioning principle

 

Pic: Midiman

Written By Dave

What should you do in the weight room for volleyball? There is such a range of exercises and different training techniques out there it’s hard to know where to start. Well here is one principle that will give you a starting point as far a weight training for volleyball goes. Do the opposite of what the players do on the court. Let me explain this.

Do the Opposite

I was listening to a strength training podcast the other day. This site, StrengthCoach Podcast has some very interesting information on strength and conditioning. There was an interview with a U.S. College strength and conditioning coach, and they were asking her what sort of things she was doing with her players inseason. She said she had been going to their trainings to get a good idea of what stresses their bodies were under from volleyball, and then basically trying to do the opposite in the gym.

Applying this principle to volleyball

For example, in volleyball training and games players spend a lot of time in a quarter squat position. Think of a middle blocker starting in a quarter squat stance ready to block a quick. The countermovement jump for spike and block is often only quarter squat depth. Defense, freeball reception, and serve reception is often only quarter squat depth. This puts a lot of stress on the quads. A quarter squat is a quad dominant movement.

To counter this in the gym, players were doing full range squats, making sure they were squatting all the way down. A lot of work was done on the posterior chain. The posterior chain is the muscles linking along your undercarriage, such as glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Basically because the quads are dominant during volleyball training, this is balanced out by trying to work the glutes and hamstrings more in the gym. This helps keep more balance between muscle groups which is key in preventing injuries.

What about the upper body?

The same is true for the upper body. In volleyball training players are spiking and serving the ball, which is working the internal rotators and anterior muscles of the shoulder (muscles at the front of the shoulder). Muscles such as the pecs and lats are two of the strongest internal rotators. To counter this in the gym players should have an emphasis on external rotation and the posterior muscles of the shoulder (the muscles behind the shoulder). These muscles work to decelerate the arm after a serve or spike and work to keep the shoulder in its socket.

But it isn’t specific to volleyball

The argument against this philosophy of doing the opposite movements to the sport, is that it doesn’t equate to great increases in power, and isn’t specific to the sport. Yes, a quarter squat may be a volleyball specific knee angle, but I see no harm in having strength through a full range of motion. Players can load up the bar and push a lot of weight, and while this has its place in a program, it is accentuating the quad dominance that already exists from playing volleyball. Same with the bench press, it plays an important role and improving your bench is likely to improve your spiking power, but you must balance this with exercises for opposing muscle groups, with lots of rowing exercises (seated row, dumbbell row etc). You can’t only perform sport specific movements in the weight room, that work to enhance the movement patterns of volleyball. You must work on the opposite movements and muscle groups in order to maintain some balance in the body and prevent injuries.

Balance 

Most training methods and exercises have their place within a program. Keep in mind the stresses and imbalances that volleyball training can cause. A good starting point for equalising some of these imbalances is to do the opposite in the gym to what players to on the court.

Whilst one train of thought thinks that what you do in the gym should mimick as closely as possible what you do on the court, it is interesting to hear a strength and conditioning coach with the contrasting view, of doing the opposite. This ensures you maintain some balance between muscle groups helping you to stay injury free.

Increasing Vertical Jump

 

Pic: SuperFantastic

Written By Dave

What is one thing besides the skills of volleyball that athletes invest a great amount of time trying to improve? You guess it, vertical jump. It was only a matter of time before a volleyball conditioning site tackled the vertical jump. This is a large topic and one very relevant to volleyball. For these reasons a number of posts will be presented on all aspects of jumping and jump training.

This particular post will look at some of the physics behind jumping and some key factors involved in jumping high.

Power
Two of the main factors are the amount of power you transfer into the ground and the efficiency of your movement.

There are a few factors that can effect how much power you can put into the ground. In physics terms power is defined as;

Power = force * acceleration

Many strength coaches have redefined this in practical terms to;

Power = strength * speed.

This means that to be powerful, and jump high you must have a good base of strength (some raw horsepower). This basically means strong legs will jump high.

The other side of the equation is you must also have speed. This is not referring to your

100m time, but rather how quickly you can transfer your strength to the ground. Ground contact times when jumping are short and you need to be able to display your strength as quickly as possible.

Body Structure

Another factor that influences the amount of force being transmitted to the ground is your body structure. You have to have good relative strength, which is strength per unit of body weight. This is also referred to as your power to weight ratio. This means if you are carrying a 20kg beer gut you are not likely to jump very high. But if you lost the gut whilst maintaining your power, your power to weight ratio would improve dramatically and you would jump higher.

Some people naturally have a build that is designed to jump high. Long Achilles tendons, long thigh bones and high muscle attachments allow them to transmit force to the ground very efficiently. These people are lucky and can often jump high without any training.

Movement Efficiency

Movement efficiency is related to co-ordination and being light on your feet. You may be a powerful guy, but if you trip over your feet while approaching for a spike you are not going to jump very high.

Summary

To summarize some of the key factors involved in jumping high:

  • Be powerful- which is a mixture of strength and speed
  • Have a good power to weight ratio- be lean and have functional (useful) muscle mass
  • Be lucky enough to have a natural spring- e.g. long Achilles tendon and other anatomical benefits
  • Be co-ordinated and move efficiently.

So this gives you an idea of what it takes to jump high. Keep and eye out for further information on how to train and improve each of these parameters.

Static Stretching in the Warm Up??


Pic: Superfantastic

Written By Dave

Static stretching has for a long time been a staple part of volleyball warm ups. Walk into a lot gyms and you will see teams sitting in circle for several minutes performing static stretching, before they launch into their training or game. Research shows that this might not be the best way to prepare….

What is static stretching?

Static stretching is basically when you move into a position of mild discomfort and hold that position for a period of time (typically 10s-30s). This is a type of stretching you see regularly, and I’m sure anyone who has played volleyball has done. An example is a seated hamstring stretch, where you have one leg out straight and the other tucked up, and you lean forward to the point of mild discomfort or stretch, and hold this position.


Seated hamstring stretch (Pic: jsmjr)

How does it affect your muscles?

Static stretching elongates muscles and reduces tension within them. As the stretch is held for a period of time, stretch receptors in the muscle become used to this new length and a consequence the neural signals to the muscle drop off. So basically your muscle gets a bit longer and relaxes.

Effect on power and vertical jump

Decreased neural output or relaxed muscles are not what you want when you are trying to produce power and jump. Many studies have found that a static stretching warm up has a detrimental effect on vertical jump and power outputs. The static stretching prior to jumping decreases the neural signals to the muscles telling it to contract. When you’re jumping you want the nervous system to be switched on, with strong messages going to the muscle enhancing the efficiency between nervous system and muscular system and hence improving power output.

A great way to switch on the nervous system is by doing an active warm up. Keep your eyes open for a later post on this.

When should you do it

The research tells us that static stretching should not be done immediately before any activity whose performance depends largely upon achieving high amounts of force. This means don’t do it before jumping, as it impedes performance.

However, after training static stretching is great. After training you want to achieve muscle relaxation and elongation, to help return muscles that have just been thrashed in training back to their original length and tension. This promotes recovery.

Static stretching in the warm up is not all bad. The dulling of the nervous system does not last forever, and can be reversed if some mobility and active warm up activities are carried out following the static stretching. This will fire up the nervous system again preparing the body for max force production and jumping.

So, you can include static stretching in a warm up, but it is best to do it at the start, and follow it with an active warm up. The key point is not to do it immediately before jumping as it dulls the nervous system impairing performance.

The Older…The Better??

 The Volleyball World Cup is a great tournament, with the best teams from around the world battling it out for a place in the Olympic Games. But what makes these teams the best teams in the world? Of course, any team competing in this tournament must be good, but what separates 1st from 12th?

 I have reviewed the average age, average number of games (national representations) and average height of each of the teams, to try and identify some trends and figure out the role these variables play in the make up of a successful team.

Women’s World Cup

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* Taismary Aguero has played 350 international games with Cuba, but was making her debut for this tournament for Italy (she recently became a citizen). The above average is calculated with her having represented her country in 0 games and hence is low. If calculated with her 350 games for Cuba, the average is 133.0.

Age & Games
Age and experience are big factors in performance of a team. The statistics above are a very superficial look at some patterns that may be present. As a general rule the older and more experienced teams are more successful. A more in depth look may be able to identify the optimal age and games required to achieve at a high level.

The top three teams are amongst the oldest, and the most experienced. The bottom three teams do not have quite as high average age, and certainly average less games.

There are experienced teams who finished a bit lower such as Dominican Republic, with an average of 133.6, finishing in 9th place and less experienced teams such as Brazil, with an average of 78.5 games finishing 2nd. A possible explanation for this is that in such a strong volleyball nation like Brazil it is harder to break into the national team, and it takes players a little longer to do so, whereas talented players may walk into a national team in Dominican Republic at a younger age, and hence play more games for their country.

Poland is an interesting team in terms of average games. They have a low average of 47.9, and the make up of the team is basically a couple of veterans with 150, and 200 games, a couple of players with 50 or so games, and an entire group of inexperienced players with only a handful of games. It should be interesting to see this group develop.

The youngest team is Serbia with an average age of 22.7 and oldest team is the USA with an average of 27.7. It is interesting that all teams fall within this five year range, perhaps this is the window of opportunity for teams to dominate in?

Height
There is a distinct pattern with height, with the last three placed teams being three of the shorter teams, with average heights all less than 180cm. This certainly doesn’t mean that the biggest teams are the best teams, but it appears that teams must have an average height of approximately 180cm to match it with the best teams in the world.

Men’s World Cup

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Age & Games
In the Men’s World Cup there was a similar pattern of the older and more experienced teams doing well. This is not a perfect relationship, but the statistics above demonstrate it to some extent. The top teams tend to have a combination of a high average age and games played, whilst the teams that finished down the bottom tended to have a lower average age and games played (Brazil- age 29.2, games 140.4 VS Tunisia- age 25.7, games 47.6). There are of course exceptions to this, but as a general rule it seems the older and more experienced teams were more successful at this tournament. Again, a more in depth analysis may show exactly what age and games are optimal. For example, USA and Spain both are old and experienced teams with average ages of 30.1 & 29.9, and average games of 152 & 208, but these teams finished 4th and 5th. Maybe these teams have just passed their prime and are now too old?

The good news for the Australian team is that it has a bit of maturing left in it as team, with the average age being 24.8. It already has got a lot of games into some of the younger guys, giving it a chance to be a force in a few years.

Height
There is no pattern with regard to height. The only thing that I see is that all the teams are tall, with an average height of over 190cm. This is nothing surprising; the best teams in the world are tall. The best team in the world is not the tallest, but it appears that all the top teams in the world average above this cut off point of 190cm.

Age, Games or Height?
So which factor is the most important in separating the top teams?

Height is definitely not the most important factor. The best teams are all above a certain threshold of 180cm in women’s and 190cm in men’s. Once above this threshold it doesn’t matter how tall the team is. The key point is, it is tall, and has a chance to compete in international volleyball. Brazil won the Men’s World Cup and has an average height of 194.3. USA was the tallest team with an average of 200.4 and finished 4th. The same was true in the Women’s World Cup with Italy winning with an average height of 180.6, and many taller teams finishing lower down.

Games played have a big influence with a lot of the top teams in men’s and women’s having a high number of average games. In the men’s Brazil and Russia both have average games of around 140 and the top three teams in the women’s average around 130.

Whilst average number of games seems to be important, it is not as important as the average age of the team. In the men’s, Australia’s average games is almost the same as Brazil and Russia. So why isn’t Australia up there with them? Because the average age of the team is 24.6 compared to Brazil with 29.2. A possible reason for this is the depth of players in Brazil. With volleyball being one of the top sports over there, they have a large talent pool to choose from. Young players must really prove themselves, and may have to wait a few years to break into the team, and hence don’t have as many games to their name.

Peurto Rico is an inexperienced team in terms of games played, with an average of 36.3 but they still finished in sixth place, above more experienced teams such as Australia (138.0 games) and Egypt (101.3 games). However they have a significantly higher average age than these teams demonstrating that it is an important factor.

A good example in the women’s is the Dominican Republic. They have played as many games as the top teams, however have an average age 4 years younger than the top teams, and are not quite right up there at the moment.

Conclusion
The higher ranked teams tend to have a high average age. So the best thing a team can do in a lot of situations is just keep playing.

Fire Up Your Butt

 
Pic: J.Star

I like big butts. Not big flabby ones. Big, powerful, strong ones. The kind you see on 100m sprinters. A big, strong butt, generally means you can generate a lot of power. Why do we want big glutes? We jump a lot, and when you jump, your glutes play a massive role.

Why Are Your Glutes So Important?

Your hips are a key aspect to improving one of the fundamental skills of Volleyball. The Vertical Jump. Your glutes are largely responsible for hip extension. Hip extension is precisely the movement you perform when you jump. Think about a jump for a moment. You squat down, bend forward at the hips. At this point you are loading up the glutes eccentrically. As you come up, one of the main movements, is hip extension, i.e. You straighten out; This is where your glutes come in. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of people begin to malfunction. They don’t get their glutes involved enough in the jump, which means they are losing a massive amount of power and efficiency. Your hip extensors attribute about 40% of the power to the jump. This is more than any other muscle group, including your legs. A pretty good reason for you wanting to get your butt in gear.

Why Won’t They Fire?

The glutes are a hard one to learn to get going. Personally, I needed help from a Pilate’s specialist to teach me how to activate them properly after I had an injured back, and even now it’s an ongoing battle to make sure they are firing all the time.

As a general rule, if you don’t know how, it is pretty hard to learn how to fire up the glutes. This is because most exercises don’t actually teach you how to get the glute going in the exact movement we need it. The jump. If you haven’t learnt how to do this properly from a young age, or it isn’t in built, then it does become quite hard to learn. Bad motor patterns are the one major reasons of a lack of glute activity,.

A common reason for lack of glute function is tight hip flexors. Tight hip flexors are easy to get, and extremely bad for glute activation. When your hip flexors are firing, they turn off your glutes, and make it very hard to activate them, and they end up pretty weak. This is known as reciprocal inhibition. When a muscle is tight (hip flexors) and firing when it shouldn’t be, the opposite muscle, the antagonist (glutes) tends to want to turn off and not work. If you are activating your hip flexors when you shouldn’t be, this is going a long way towards your inability to get the glutes firing. Your hip flexors get really tight from sitting down for a long time, or simply from some bad exercise techniques (i.e. some crazy abs that activate more hip flexor than abdominal…).

What Else Goes Wrong?

Not only will you struggle to get as much power as you want, but you will also be pre- disposing yourself to a large variety of injuries. Wonderful.

If your glutes are sagging (haha) you are going to have to generate that power somewhere else. What occurs is known as synergistic dominance. Basically, your other muscles take up the slack and try to compensate for the fact that your glutes can’t do the job for you. Weak glutes pre disposes you to

• Low back injuries,
• Hamstring injuries,
• ITB tightness/ syndrome,
• All sorts of Knee injuries

Oh yeah, and this is just to name a few. A nice little side effect to add to the fact that you aren’t getting the most out of your jump.

Right, I Want to Jump High and Be Injury Free, Now What Do I Do?

Watch this space very closely. I will be giving you another part to this very important and enthralling series. We will look at activating the glutes in isolation, learning to get the switched on and firing again, then consequently strengthening them. Here’s to a better jump…

To Brace or not to Brace?: That is the Question

‘Ankle braces will weaken your ankles mate, don’t stay on them too long’. I don’t know when or how this myth started, but guys, it ain’t true. We play Volleyball. We jump at the net, surrounded by many other people, land from crazy heights, into even more dangerous positions, feet are everywhere, uncoordinated idiots jumping under the net…please, protect your ankles.

What is Proprioception?

Proprioception is an important sense in the body. Unlike, sight, touch, hearing taste and smell, it focuses on only internal feedback from the body. Proprioception is the process by which you body can vary muscles contraction in immediate response to incoming information about your body in space. It is basically a sensory feedback for muscle control and posture.

Proprioception occurs by utilizing proprioceptors (little sensory things- Golgi tendon organs and Muscle spindle) in your muscles to monitor length, tension and pressure.

So why don’t they weaken your ankles?

OK, I get the reasoning behind everyone’s assumption that long-term ankle brace usage will cause ankle weakness. I hear a lot that it is doing the work for your ankle, so your ankle becomes detrained and won’t perform the proprioception itself. I get it, yeah, but it’s wrong. Let me try and explain.

Most people reading this would have worn an ankle brace at some stage in their career. Firstly you simply cannot take away your body’s proprioception. When you move in an ankle brace, your ankle still has to do a lot of work. You haven’t surrounded your ankle with a new joint and voila, no more ankle activation. When you land, or move, your ankle still must correct itself, and your proprioception is still very much hard at work. Your ankle will move a fair bit in the brace, and lots of forces will be applied, so in a healthy ankle the muscle spindles and Golgi tendons will be getting a fair workout. The fact of the matter is, that bracing will actually work to enhance your proprioceptive input, not override it.

All ankle braces are doing for you, is stopping you ripping the crap out of your ankle, shattering every bone, snapping all the ligaments and ending your career. OK, over dramatic, but you get the point? An ankle brace will not dull your senses; it will simply prevent a real disaster occurring. If you are going to go over your ankle badly, you probably will in an ankle brace anyway, it just means that the severity of the injury is a lot less.

Don’t believe me? Fair enough. I get that. But there are numerous studies supporting me.

Mitchell et.al (2000) did a study on the effects long-term ankle bracing has on the Peroneus Longus (muscle around the ankle) during sudden inversion in normal subjects. They did the study because

“ankle bracing in a healthy ankle over a sustained period has been scrutinized due to possible neuromuscular adaptations resulting in diminished dynamic support offered by the peroneus longus muscle. Although this claim is anecdotal in nature, we sought to investigate the effects of long-term ankle bracing using 2 commonly available appliances on Peroneus Longus latency (edit: time delay between and effect on the muscle and a reaction to that effect) in normal subjects. Our second purpose was to evaluate the effects of ankle bracing on Peroneus Longus latency before a period of extended use”

Their results? Ankle bracing had no effect on the latency of the Peroneus muscle. Short term or long term. Nothing at all.

“The duration of the Peroneus Longus stretch reflex (latency) is neither facilitated nor inhibited with extended use of an external ankle support. Proprioceptive input provided by the muscle spindles within the Peroneus Longus does not appear to be compromised with the long-term use of ankle braces.”

Feuerbach et.al (1994) also did a study looking at the effect of ankle orthosis (bracing) on ankle joint proprioception. The found that using an ankle brace would actually increase the feedback from your internal receptors, and will lead to an improved ankle joint position sense.

Nishikawa and Grabiner (1999) did a very similar study. They also found that application of the ankle brace excited the receptors, most likely those that are to do with the skin. Meaning bracing led to better proprioception and joint sense; helping make the candidates more aware. They also showed that Peroneus Longus latency was not affected at all by ankle brace use. They noted that this is very important for rehabilitation purposes, as an injured ankle needs to work on proprioception, and bracing may help to excite and stimulate that.

Sorry for the the technical crap, but now you have some evidence.

There has got to be some negatives to bracing…

Speaking recently to Aussie Libero Phill DeSalvo and my roommate with vastly improving hip mobility, Sarah, both have a different view on the ankle brace. A very very high percentage of ankle sprains in Volleyball occur at the net. Now, if you are a libero and you are jumping to spike or block at the net, then you don’t know what you are doing, are in violation of a lot of rules, and should hand your different coloured shirt in. The point is, ankle injuries occur when jumping and landing, Liberos rarely jump or land. In fact, some feel that they maybe limit their range of motion a little. There is no evidence to support this, but it is a feeling held by quite a few liberos. As you try to get into a deep side lunge, the ankle brace can inhibit that slightly as your ankle obviously doesn’t have as much range. Some players also find that they don’t fit well with their shoe, or are simply uncomfortable. Try taping! Just a little food for thought on the negative aspect of bracing.

Some very good reasons to wear braces

Prevention

You jump. A lot. Surrounded by a few people. You land in the same environment. Yes, in elite Volleyball there are much less uncoordinated players unable to halt their momentum and jump under the net, but at even slightly lower level, it does become a little dangerous!

To put it simply, there are very little reasons not to wear an ankle brace. You won’t weaken your ankles, just won’t happen. So you can take that out of your mind when making your decision. I know as a coach, if one of my players did their ankle and wasn’t in a brace, my sympathy would be waning. The nature of the sport is one in which ankle sprains are common. Let’s try and prevent them a little hey, seems a stupid reason to miss games.

Rehabilitation

When you sprain your ankle, you lose some of your proprioceptive ability and muscle control. You have to retrain it with proprioception exercises to get it back to full functioning. This is a pretty tough gig and a lot of people don’t do it so well. We will have a post in the future on ankle proprioception exercises that can help you get back to full functionality.

Anyway, the point is, when you are returning to play, your ankle proprioception is still a little wayward, even though you are nearly back to full strength. Ankle brace or taping is imperative at this stage, as you are much more likely to do your ankle. In fact, for other sports, its recommended after an ankle injury that some sort of protection be worn for up to 6 months whilst you are trying to regain full or near to full proprioception.

Keep in mind that the best way to rehab a bad ankle is to do stuff without braces. When doing your fitness work, and proprioception training there is no need for them. You aren’t landing amongst people and have no need to wear them, a similar principle and argument for a libero not needing to wear them. Since they have very little effect on the proprioception of a joint, other than to create more awareness in certain situations, and there is no risk involved when doing balance training, lowering exercises and general ankle strengthening work outside of Volleyball play, keep them off.

So…

Bracing is very much an individual choice. However quite a lot of teams, especially at higher levels do require that braces are worn by everyone during games and trainings, as they simply don’t want to lose players. When factoring in your decision to wear a brace or not, please remember that you aren’t going to detrain your ankles, just help prevent a serious injury.

Ouch, check this out…(nope she wasn’t wearing a brace!) Don’t forget to vote on our poll in the sidebar!

Injury Stats in Volleyball


Pic: hugovk

Injuries happen in every sport, and we get a fair share of them. A study was done in Australia by Monash University in 2001 on Injury rates and severity amongst Volleyball participants. There is really no comprehensive source of injury data in Australia. This study used insurance claims, and hospital admissions. They also took lots of data from previous studies. This means there are big limitations with these stats, but hey, its all we have and we are going to share them. We have summarised the massive report just a little for you, hopefully provides some interesting stats.

It should be noted that this study isn’t as accurate as it could be. It was very hard for them to document the overuse injuries that occur in volleyball. It’s obvious, and well known that shoulder and knee overuse injuries are very common. However in relation to gathering stats for it, it’s virtually impossible. They got their info from hospital visits and insurance claims, most of this stuff happens directly after an acute injury. Chronic injuries take time to arise and are not as well documented. So most of the statistics we are talking about in this post are from acute injuries (sprains etc).

Who Gets Injured Most?

Here they have quoted some statistics from other recent studies. Amongst kids, when compared to other 37 other sports, Volleyball had much lower injury rates. It ranked 30, and they were much less severe injuries. With less than 8% being treated in hospital. Thats right parents, it’s a safe sport, so get involved.

An interesting one was the comparison from indoor to beach. For all ages, the injury rate for indoor was 4.2/1000 hours, whereas the rate for beach was 4.9/1000 hours. I knew indoor was safer. There was less ankle and finger injuries in beach. It can be assumed this is because there is only one blocker, less likely to have accidents when landing. It also applies to the finger injuries, less blocking, and less forceful hits to rip a finger off with. There were more shoulder injuries in beach. This can be attributed to the fact that you serve and spike a lot more in beach, and having to adjust more often (from wind or a wet ball) resulting in weird shoulder movements.

The level of play seems to be another indicating factor. There was significantly less injuries amongst the elite level. Overall there was more injuries, but simply because they play more, however the rate was much lower. One can assume this is because they are more skilled, better coordination patterns, less likely to jump through the net, can land more efficiently, and more importantly have access to some important resources that the average recreational player doesn’t!

Another conclusion form this study was that you are more likely to get injured at the net. Not so surprising there. You are more likely to get injured blocking and attacking.

What Kind Of Injuries Occur?

Well of all reviewed studies, within the Monash report, the most injured parts of the body were the ankle (17-61%), finger (8-45%), knee (6-59%), shoulder (2-24%), and back (9-18%). Note that there were many different study designed, definitions of injury, participant numbers and source of data. That accounts for the large ranges in percentages I have just shown you!

The most common types of injuries were strains and sprains (64-81%). Following closely behind were fractures and dislocations and overuse injuries. As I mentioned earlier the overuse injuries aren’t well documented in terms of pure stats, and end up being largely under estimated.

If you are interested you can check out the full Monash University Report here, but be warned, it’s 107 pages. It does have some interesting reading further down on prevention and rehabilitation of injuries. We will cover all these in later posts!

Hip Mobility Part 2: The Program

Hip mobility is important for Volleyball players. The ability to get low is imperative in many skills. My philosophy is, if you want to get lower, then get low more often. Basically, if you want to be able to get low, then you simply need to do exercises in which you are getting low. Simply squatting deep all day is pretty boring, and there are a few other exercises which target some of the muscles that are often limiting factors in why you can’t get full range.

I’m going to go through the exercises in Sarah’s program that are specifically for her hip mobility. There are other exercises in the program for her general conditioning, but we will focus on those designed to get her lower.

The bulk of her program is actually a really long warm-up, focusing on getting her limber through the joints that are limiting. By the main program, she is warm and mobile and is able to get more range through the harder exercises.

Warm Up

Body Weight Squats- A very specific warm up exercise. Doesn’t need to be done to full range, to 90 degrees is good enough.

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Active ITB Stretch- A lot of people have tight ITB and TFL’s. These muscle run up the side of your leg and attach to the hip, getting them moving early is a good idea. Do it dynamically and move side to side quickly.

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Glute Lifts- Activating your glute early means your hip flexors can relax. Its an antagonistic relationship. If your glute can activate properly, your hip flexor will relax.

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Active Hip Flexor Stretch- Elbow to knee. This opens up your hip flexors, groins, butt, everything. It’s a good stretch and even better if done active in the warm-up.

Side Lunge Windmills- Tight groins are often a problem, and were the case for Sarah. This stimulates the groins, and gets them through a good range of motion early.

Arabesque on Wobble Board- Holding this position really gets your glute working. Same principle as above, its important to activate the glute early, it’s a muscle you want to work.

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Piriformis Stretch- One of the small and most painful muscles in your bottom. Doing this stretch also gets your hip flexor and generally opens you up.

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Calf Walking- Calves are often tight in people. If you have tight calves, your heels want to come off the ground when you get down into a squat.

Main Program

OH (Overhead) Squats

The Ultimate exercise. It gives you balance, flexibility, strength and posture. You can start light; a broomstick or light bar is fine. Lock your elbows out; bring your chest up by bringing your shoulder blades together and squat. For the purpose of this program I am getting Sarah to go as deep as possible. Having the weight overhead really opens your whole body up. Over your muscles you have a layer of fascia. This is often tight and is restricting your range of motion. Bringing your arms up overhead stretches out your fascia and gives it a workout.

OH Lunges, Front and Back


Very similar principle to the overhead squat. Hold a plate over your head (in this video I have a medicine ball, also fine, simply have no plates at home). Lunging activates your quads and butt, and gives your hip flexors a big stretch through a large range of motion. By putting in the reverse aspect, you have to activate your butt initially to get your leg behind you. This is great as it turns your hip flexor off. It also stretches the hip flexors out a little more as your push your leg back. The front and back component also allows you to get a little bit of balance training in there.

Prying

I don’t know why I call it this or where I got it from, but it works. As I have mentioned many times, you want to get lower, then get low more often. Prying is putting yourself into the position you want to be in, and working around a little. In this video I’m not holding anything, but you can grab onto a pole or a bench and hold yourself in that position so you don’t fall backwards.

Side Lunges

A pain in the butt. I don’t like these, mainly because they are hard! This is a position you need to be in for Volleyball. It strengthens all the right muscles, and opens you up through your groin. Its great for stability and strength, for the purpose of getting lower, you should work right through the full range of motion.

That’s all for the program. At the end of each Sarah has a good stretch, focusing on the muscles around the hip.

Add some of these to your weights session and you will find you get more range. Look out for Part 3 in a couple of weeks, when we see how far she has come. It’s already looking heaps better!

Hip Mobility Part 1: The Before Pics…

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what every libero should be able to do… Pic:milopeng

Get Lower! One of the most common things you hear your coach say to you is to get down lower. Low in defence, low in passing, just get low. If you are low, chances are you will perform the skill better. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Many of us struggle to force our hips through that range of motion. The good news? It is very easily fixed.

A lot of people struggle with mobility through their hips. There are a number of factors that can affect hip mobility. Generally bad range means you are tight through the structures surrounding your hips. Hip Flexors, Glutes, ITB, TFL…all those muscles. Stretching is very important, but it is also a good idea to put some functional movements in there as well. If you want to be able to get lower, then you need to get lower more often. Pretty simple really. In normal life you don’t need to get so low, so your body isn’t trained to do it and your hips simply don’t go through that range of motion. In Volleyball, it’s essential, so you have to teach your body to get there, repeatedly. Stretching, plus some of the movements I will show you in Part 2, which is basically stretching whilst moving through a range of motion, will help to get you a lot lower pretty quickly.

The Case Study

For those following my personal blog, you will notice I now have a new roommate, and teammate, Sarah, who is also doubling as our new libero. The first thing I noticed when watching her pass, was her lack of mobility through her hips. As a libero, it’s the first thing you want to develop, and one of the most important things. Being able to get low, means that you can stay on your feet more often, move faster, and are simply more efficient. You are also more likely to be injury free, and be able to perform more exercises beneficial for building power. The good news for Sarah? She’s my new guinea pig! Even better news for you, I’m going to show how I will get her more mobile.

Check out these pics. The left is Sarah (my teammate) and the right is me (the ultimate athlete). We have done a comparison, my mobility is still improving, but you can see the difference. The key here is that your heels need to stay on the ground, and your back reasonably upright.

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I chose these positions because they are pretty much what you need to be in to perform skills for Volleyball. Notice in positition two, Sarah is already lower than she was in the previous picture. This is proof to you that by simply getting lower, you will get better at it. Wait till you see her in three weeks!

I struggled big time with hip mobility and had a very similar range to Sarah up until about 8 months ago when I thought it would be a nice idea to do something about it. I’m not perfect yet, but I am a lot better, and consequently, moving a lot more efficiently and I am able to perform more power exercises through a larger range of motion. Most importantly I am a lot more injury free.

Why Am I Showing You This?

Well, I thought I could document her process. I have written her a program, and seeing as we do weights together, I can monitor this easily. I think in 3-4 weeks, I can have her getting as low as me…even if I have to force her hips into that position myself. Check back to part 2 where I go through the program I am giving her and explain how each of the exercises will get you some more mobility.